5 spots in the Cotswolds where you can avoid the crowds

Take the road less travelled and discover 5 of the Cotswolds hidden gems that the tourists haven’t yet discovered.

Defined by its sleepy honey-hued villages and bucolic rolling green hills grazed by sheep, the Cotswolds attracts many to its idyllic country setting, offering the perfect haven to get away from it all. Naturally, with some of the prettiest villages in the UK, the Cotswolds can get busy – especially during the school holidays and summer season.

For those who take the time to venture away from the well-travelled hotspots, there are some quiet places in the Cotswolds where you can enjoy a relaxing break. Treat yourself to a stay in one of our Cotswolds cottages and explore some of these lesser-known attractions.

A secret garden

While hordes of tourists tend to flock to the popular gardens of Hidcote Manor, many visitors are unaware that there is another secret garden located just across the road. The horticultural masterpiece of Kiftsgate Court Gardens is situated above the village of Mickleton and is every bit as colourful as its more famous neighbour, and a lot quieter.

Designed, planted and sustained by three generations of female gardeners, this hidden gem in the Cotswolds is a delight for all the senses with an ever-changing display of foliage throughout the year. An enchanting woodland garden steps down the hillside to a beautiful pool on the terrace where there are many peaceful spots to sit and read, draw, write or simply admire the inspiring views to the Malvern Hills and beyond.

Tulips are a highlight in the spring, followed by dazzling displays of peonies, geraniums and lilies in the summer, but the true showstopper is the Kiftsgate Rose. Planted in 1938, it is claimed to be the largest rose in Britain, measuring 24 meters wide and 15 meters high! Be sure to make time for a spot of afternoon tea before you leave – the homemade cakes are divine.

Where to stay: The Wool Store at Mickleton Hills Farm is set within acres of farmland, where you can relax and unwind after a day of exploring. Sleeping two, it is the perfect romantic retreat for couples looking to enjoy a quiet break away.

Romantic ruins

Set in the midst of rolling countryside, the atmospheric ruins of Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire tend to attract smaller crowds and have many fascinating stories to tell. One of the lesser-known attractions of the Cotswolds, this 13th-century Cistercian abbey was founded in 1246 by the Earl of Cornwall and was once the centre of monastic life.

Owned by the National Trust, but maintained and managed by English Heritage, there is a museum on site and an excellent audio tour which details the history of the abbey. Discover how a phial, allegedly of Christ’s own blood, attracted pilgrims from far and wide, and see displays of sculpture and other interesting site finds.

Hailes Abbey rests along the Cotswolds Way footpath, the perfect stop-off during a scenic hike. The tranquil open grounds are perfect for a relaxing picnic in a uniquely historic setting and afterwards, you can pop into the adjacent parish church to see its fine medieval wall paintings.

Where to stay: Robin Cottage is a beautifully converted barn in Winchcombe offering stylish accommodation for four guests. Follow the Cotswold Way National Trail to reach Hailes Abbey by foot, 2.5 miles away.

Magical journeys by steam

One of the most relaxing ways to admire some of the Cotswolds best-loved views is from the comfort of a steam or heritage diesel train on the seasonal Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway. Without the worry of jostling through crowds of tourists, you can experience some of the most beautiful villages and breathtaking landscapes on a 28-mile journey from Cheltenham Racecourse up to Broadway.

Some of the wonderful views you will encounter include the Malvern Hills, the Vale of Evesham, Hailes Abbey, Tewkesbury Abbey, the sleepy hamlets of Stanley Pontlarge and Far Stanley, and Cleeve Hill, the highest point of the Cotswolds.

Hop off at Winchcombe Station for a bite to eat in the 1950s themed café and have a browse of its Discovery Coach where you can learn more about the history of the railway, before jumping back on the train to continue your magical journey. Rover tickets give you unlimited travel all day.

Where to stay: With a free-standing copper bath and a glowing wood burner, Pineapple Spa is perfect for families of four looking for some rest and rejuvenation. Toddington Station is only 10 miles away from where you can catch the GWSR.

Awe-inspiring views

For a peaceful picnic on a sunny day accompanied by sweeping views over the Regency town of Cheltenham, climb to the top of Leckhampton Hill and find yourself a quiet spot. This tranquil nature reserve is home to an array of birdlife including buzzards, kestrels and red kites, as well as carpets of pretty wildflowers and delicate orchids.

There is a myriad of walking routes through enchanting woodland, limestone grassland and across an Iron Age hillfort and long barrow, along with a downhill mountain bike trail. And no visit is complete without discovering The Devil’s Chimney, an unusual limestone rock formation that peaks over the hill.

Pick up supplies for your picnic from one of the many delis and food shops in Cheltenham before you ascend the hill – if you time your visit right, it will coincide with the farmers’ market that is held every second and last Friday of the month where you will find an incredible selection of local treats.

Where to stay: Bredons Norton – The Forge is an idyllic country retreat for four and a haven for walkers and cyclists. A stunning Victorian conservatory offers the perfect spot to unfurl with a good book and soak up the views after your adventures.

A hidden village

Most visitors to the Cotswolds tend to head straight for the more iconic picture-postcard towns and villages such as Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold and Broadway. However, this means that they can get very busy during peak times of the year. So, if you’re looking to avoid this tourist trail, then the unspoilt Cotswold village of Naunton is a great place to spend a day.

Relatively untouched by tourism, you won’t find stately homes, museums and tearooms here, just one welcoming pub and plenty of peace and quiet. It’s set in a lovely spot on the River Windrush where golden stone cottages wind their way along sleepy lanes.

The church of St Andrew is a wonderful place to sit for a while to admire its medieval sundial and gargoyles adorning the perpendicular tower windows. You can also follow one of the lanes up the hill, past the village’s famous 17th-century dovecote for some spectacular panoramas over the village and surrounding landscape.

Where to stay: Enjoy your own little hideaway at Naunton Little Barn which embodies the charming, peaceful features of the village. A tranquil oasis for two in the heart of the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds is an idyllic destination for a quiet, relaxing escape, so why not take a look at the range of self-catering accommodation available at Holidays In The Cotswolds and start planning your next visit.